tv [untitled] June 3, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm EDT
the j is nicely formed, this is one of the bottles that the resident would have used. attached to a side of a wine bottle. madison's views of slavery which is incredibly important for understanding who mr. madison was. we know his role as a politician, fourth president of the united states, his role as political thinker with designing the virginia plan, the constitution. his role as entertainer with dolly in the house, but very important role was as a slave owner, how did this blend all these together, the entertaining he was doing, how he had house slaves interacting with slaves and the guests. we're trying to put all this back together and the documents
don't tell us everything we need so we're trying to fill in the gaps with the archeology. >> you can view more american history tv programs at our website cspan.org/history. follow us on facebook. facebook.com/cspan. now the contenders, our 14 week series on key political figures who ran for president and lost, but who nefrt less changed political history. tonight we feature former house speaker henry clay of kentucky, known as the great compromiser. the program was recorded at clay's ash land estate in lexington, kentucky and it's about 90 minutes. each sunday at this time through labor day weekend, you can watch the contenders here on american history tv on c-span3. this is a portrait of henry clay known to us as the great
compromiser. during his 49 year political career, clay served as secretary of state, speaker of the house, and u.s. senator. and he was a contender. making five presidential bids including the election of 1824, 1832 against andrew jackson, and 1844, when he ran against james k. polk, today we're on location at henry clay's home and we'll explore the life of this man. unsuccessful in his long quest for the white house, yet having an out sized influence on american history. and we are in henry clay's parlor right how. let me introduce you to jim klotter. 25 years as kentucky state historian. thanks for being with us. >> glad to be here. >> why henry clay, why is he relevant to americans living in our time? >> i think a couple of counts. his famous comment i'd rather be right than be president still
speaks to us. it's a claire i don't know call to people to do the right thing to people to do the right thing. he also said in a sense politicians need to remember the country and sacrifice for the country and i think that is something we need to remember, as well. and of course the man known as the great compromiser, a man that formed these compromises that not only kept the nation together, but were constructive and those kind of things i think are the kinds of things we need to remember about henry clay as well as all the things he did in his life. they again are a clairei don't know call over and over to us to say to us again and again that we can do a lot of things if we just do and try. >> we'll try to fit 49 years of rich political history during a very complex and interesting time of american history into our program tonight. but let's start with basics about his biography. where and when was he born and how did he get to kentucky?
>> he was born in 1777 and the seventh child and his father died very young. clay's mother remarried to a younger man, but clay liked to think of himselves as this self made man, the man carrying the corn to the mill and working himself to the bone. and coming up from the ranks from a very poor family. but in essence, he came from a well to to family. they had claslaves.dto family. they had slaves.o family. they had slaves. do family. they had slaves. his family came to on kentucky leaving him back in virginia when he was 14 to be on his own and from there, then he finally joined back in kentucky when he was 20 years old, a young lawyer, married well. easiest way to get rich is to marry well and he did that. and this estate is an example of what he did with his start and with his promise and he made himself into somebody that all americans knew. >> whom did he marry?
>> lakresha hart clag. she w clay. marriage into that people gave him entry into it a lot of chill circles that probably would have been denied him. she brought with that marriage money and they basically had the connections because her family was related to a lot of people and he used those connections to move forward, but he also once he got his foot in the door, key open the door himself through his own skills and his opwn abilities. >> if henry clay were standing here today, what did he look like, what did he sound like? >> i don't think anybody would sit down with henry clay and not leave without liking henry clay. he was a man not a handsome man. everybody says he was ugly and said his mouth was so large that he couldn't spit properly. he was a man who liked the ladies as they said and somebody
at the time said he could kiss them out of one side of his mouth was resting the other sifd h side of his mouth. but key charm yohe could charm . there was a person that came to henry clay's home and to a party, a room filled with people, room bigger than this this, and the man said wouldn't you like to meet the famous from clay. and this democrat said about clay, no, sir, i do not choose to subject myself to the spell of his fascination because he knew henry clay would sum hick nim to his orbit because he had that personality, that charm that anybody who would meet him would like henry clay. >> do you know was this just a genetic gift or did he school himself to be, did he have a mentor? >> he'd worked at it. he head patrick henry speak back in virginia and he was amazed by
the force of henry's oratory and he wanted to be like that and he worked at it. he talks about giving speeches to the cows in the field as practice. and then he came to kentucky as a lawyer. you almost had to convince your juries through the force of your words, not necessarily the law itself in frontier state like that, and so he developed it. but he was almost a self made orator, too. key turn in a minute and speak on the issues. it was impossible to challenge clay in a debate because he would get up on the spur of the month and come up with all the facts and figures and win the argument. john c. calhoun once prepared a talk for two week and clay got up and demolished it instantly. that's the kind of man clay was. and had he been able to appear on television, he could have really been a very effective politician. of course at that time you didn't campaign for president.
there was no radio. so that force was lessened. >> when we've been talking with historians and people here at ashland about him, they keep telling us that he was the equivalent of a rock star in his time. everybody in the country knew him. now, in a country without mass communication, how was it possible for everybody to know who henry clay was? >> everybody -- politics was the sports of that time. it was the game that everybody followed. there were no organized sports as we knew it. there wasn't any musical thingses except in the church and things like that. so the politics and oratory, everybody wanted to follow that just as closely as they could. and the oratory, speeches of clay or webster, young boys in school and girls would write these down and would practice them over and over again because they wanted to be like henry clay. but he was like a rock star. he would be followed by adoring people. he would go into towns and
there's an example of 100,000 people turning tout hear him speak at one time in dayton, ohio. he had children named for him, steamboats named for help. he had everything named for him. he was a man that people wanted to see.iomelp. he had everything named for him. he was a man that people wanted to see.lp. he had everything named for him. he was a man that people wanted to see.p. he had everything named for him. he was a man that people wanted to see.. he had everything named for him. he was a man that people wanted to see.m. he had everything named for him. he was a man that people wanted to see. >> politicians still talk about help today. let's listen into mitch mcconnell. >> henry clay was the greatest states man that my home state ever produced. he served the people as speaker of the kentucky house of representatives. speaker of the united states house of representatives. secretary of state under president john quincy adams. and of course as one of the greatest senators to ever walk through the capitol. he was also honored to receive his party's nomination for president three times in 1824,
1832 and 1844. the essence of legislating in the senate as 100 viewpoints are brought together to create one law is compromised. henry clay became nobody as the great compromiser by forging the compromise that would keep this precious union together. clay did not compromise in the sense of information saking his principle, rather, his skill was to bring together december pir rat ideas and forge consensus among his colleagues. that's a skill we could certainly use more of now. >> during the great debates we just went through this summer over the debt ceiling and the budget, there was so much talk about compromise in washington, whether or not it's a lost art. talk to us in that context about henry clay as the great compromiser and what sort of skills he brought to bear there. >> clay, if he wanted something
to happen, would work very hard to make it happen. he would sit down with people, he would find out what they wanted, he would go to the other side and see what they would want. tried to find some xhond grouco ground, somewhere in the middle. it cost him, though. there's a sign in the attorney general's office that said blessed are the peace maker, for they shall catch hell from both sides. and in a sense, clay caught that problem from both sides. and it hurt him politically. but at the same time, he felt he had to do this because the nation required it. the nation had been founded on compromise. the constitution is a compromise. and the nation did not compromise on these issue, it would tear itself apart. so clay had an urgency behind everything he did and he actually compromised some of his principles for the sake of the union in the 1833 compromise. he gave up will his beloved tariff issues for the sake of
keeping the union together and not having secessions break off and fight war against andrew jackson. but at the same time, the greater thing that he would not compromise on was the union. he said at one time anybody wants to know the key to my heart, the union is the key to my heart. that was the thing he would never compromise on. >> when we're talking about echos of today, the american system which is something he promoted, had major component which is include tariffs you just referenced, spending the money from the tariffs on building american infrastructure, and then also the big debate over national bank. we're still discussing how effective these things are in today's economy. what was the country like then and what was the level of debate over issues such as the tariff and the national bank? >> very philosophical issues that were issues from the very start of the nation. still issues when henry clay came around, still issues today. do we have strong central did
governments or strong state governments. clay thought a national government should do things for the nation. the states could not accomplish these and he spoke out of that and people spoke against him for that. and hurt him in a lot of ways politically, as well. but he felt like these roads, these canals, he's internal improvements were necessary to tie the country together. otherwise it would frag moment to east, west, north, south. and his comment was i know no north, no south, no east, no west. to him it was one country in-canity adviceable and these would be ways to keep it together. a tariff would allow to go. he didn't say it had to be there all the time, but a tariff would help american industry to grow on compete. and then at the time when the united states was being formed, hard money was the only legal currency. the government didn't print paper money. some banks did. but they could be weak. banks and the money would go away. so clay wanted to make central
bank that really we wouldn't have until the nerve system was set up in the 20th century. and that bank of the united states became controversial, as well. but he felt all of this was necessary for the good of the nation. >> henry clay sound like a pretty good by, but he said he had a lot of enemies and also known for have vices. what were his vices? >> you talked about the age this was in p the vices became more prominent as long as he lived. because in his youth, he was known as a person who liked to gamble. he said it was a very good political tool. he could sit down when he was making the peace treaty with the british and play poker with them. and see how much they would like to bruf or how much they would call his bluff. so he saw it as a tool in some ways. he loved to gamble. he would lose huge amounts of money one 23450inight pip wi.
win it back the next night. his wife said he usually wins. so he did win a lot. but he liked the spirit of the gamble. but as he got older, he did not do that as much. he liked to drink as most americans did at that time in a time when water was not very safe to drink. we preferred wine, but he never really got drunk. but he enjoyed it. but all those things were used against him by the moral side of america that thought that clay was a womanizer, blasphemer, dualist, and a drinker. and so those things would be used against him over and over again. really at different times in his life, there was something to some of those. but it was much exaggerated. it became part of the stereo type of henry clay. >> clay died in 1852. so the 50 year career we're talking about spans the first half of the 19th century america, a great year -- many
years full of formation of the nation and also sectionalism and the fights over slavery. we have so much to talk about and during this program, we will be opening up our phone lines for your participation. i'll give you the phone numbers now. it will be a little bit of time before we get to call, but if you're interested on do so, you can get in line. 20 202-737-0002 in the mounts in-sooin mountain time zones. we want to listen to the views of kentucky's junior senator, rand paul. >> henry clay's life is at best a mixed message. his compromise were on slavery. one could argue that he rose about sexual strive to preserve the union. but one could also argue that he
was morally wrong and that his decisions on slavery to extend slavery were decisions that actually may have even ultimately invited the war that came. that his compromises meant that during the 50 years of his legislative career, he not only accepted slavery, but he accepted the swlslave trade. in the name of compromise, henry clay was by most accounts not a cruel master, but he was a master nonetheless of 48 slaveses. most of which they did not free during his life time and some of which he only freed belatedly 20 years after his death. he assumed the fugitive slave law throughout his career. he compromised on the it x. tension of slavery. when he was the speaker of the house, there was a vote on extending slavery into arkansas and the vote was # 88-88. he came down to vote in favor of extending slavery into arkansas.
before we you'll guise henry clay, we should appreciate the contrast with contemporaries who refused to compromise.guise hen clay, we should appreciate the contrast with contemporaries who refused to compromise. william lloyd garrison refused to compromise with clay with clay's desire to send the slaves back to africa. garrison was beaten, chased by mobs and imprisoned for his principled stand. frederick douglass traveled the country at the time, he was a free black man, but he raffle d traveled at great personal risk. and he proved ultimately that he was the living breathing example that in-tellect and leadership could come from a recently freed slave. >> we're back and we are with another guest. alicestyne turley is a history professor. welcome to our discussion of henry clay.
before we get into the area in which you have spent your scholarship, which is slavery in that time period, talk to me in the general sense about your impressions of henry clay and his legacy. what are your views of this man? >> i think the image of him as a rock star and popular candidate, political figure is very impressive. he is a lightning rod. he seems to be able to get people fired up for or against him. and even on the abolitionist issue, he takes more heat than senators who were actually more, john c calhoun 37
philosophically he was against the idea of slavery. i guess for his time period, he would have been considered extremely liberal. and for a long time, he was touted he also didn't think african-americans could survive in america as citizens. so the whole idea of the american colonization idea became his platform that he stuck to throughout his presidency. i'm sorry. i'm making him president. throughout his political career. he never did deny the fact that he felt african-americans should have their freedoms. he was just not willing to risk -- he knew the political damage anti-slavery could do to his political career and the country. >> jim carter was a slave holder, correct? >> he was a slave holder.
it caused him great grief all his life. in the north he was criticized as a slave holder. in the south he was criticized. had he taken one side or the other, he might have been much better off as a politician, as abraham lincoln in the north got elected president with all the northern votes but no southern votes. it may have helped him as a poll stigs. >> and the fact that he wasn't willing to do it and stuck to his emancipation ideas despite the criticism. so that says a lot. >> what do with know about the slaves and how he treated them. >> he reported at the height of having 35, i think when he dies and is still holding slaving, he emancipates some. the most famous case is charlotte. who is his servant in washington.
who doesn't want to return to kentucky. he also gets credit for freeing charles and some of the other slaves here on the estate. he spends time at the market here in lexington purchasing slaves and is known for the quality of slaves that he purchases. so again, he's one of those people that's dual natured. >> people used to talk about slavery in kentucky being the mildest. it doesn't matter. it's still slavery. that's what really slavery was. somebody said they heard the lash in the back and heard the screams of the slave. and that was the deafening of liberty.
>> i want to spend a minute more on this american colonization. including andrew jackson, his nemesis webster. francis scott key, how popular was the american colonization movement in the country? >> well, it was extremely popular. and clay is considered one of the majors if not the founder. he gets funding for the resettlement. he is known for this. this is what causes them to unite. against henry clay. in the sense that why should we have to leave the united states? it's popular in the white community. not popular in the south.
>> the idea of the death trap and the people that were slaves their forefathers have been here longer than the owners. why should we leave our home? >> no connections to africa whatsoever. and the fact that clay is trying to move the primarily free blacks, the removal of free blacks for the country, not the slaves. >> i'm going to introduce a third person to our discussion. ashland is open for tours and interprets the life of henry clay. we have a special guest with us tonight. the special director of tour operations here. before you take our viewers on a tour, let's get a sense of the place. ashland today is in what part of lexington? >> we are on new circle road. about a mile and a half from
downtown. about a mile and a half from new circle road. so we're on the southeast edge of town in a beautiful residential area of lexington. >> and how many acres does the house have today, and how many did henry clay have at his zenith? >> today we sit on about 17 acres here at ashland. we have the contract for the first 2500 acres. at its height the farm was about 670 acres. >> we should learn a little bit more about his family before we go in here as well. he and his wife had how many children all together, and did they all live here? >> they had 11 children. however, they did not all live here at the same time. there was a lot of tragedy in the family. all six of henry's daughters would die. only two made it into early adulthood. and one of the sons died as
well. so there was a fair bit of tragedy here. >> now the house interprets henry clay at what period in his life? >> the house would interpret henry clay throughout his lifetime. we mention when he was born and go until his death in 1852. so we talk about the span of his life. we talk about his family and his political career as well. as well as his farming and legal career. >> what we're going to see now is what visitors to ash land would see as they tour the first floor of the estate. so take us on a tour. >> we're in the foyer. this is where the clay family would have welcomed their guests. the claim family established a long legacy of welcoming guests here at ashland. we have next the drawing room where the family entertained their guests. this is where we're filming tonight. many of the clay's important guests would have come to this room. wasn't the most formal room in the house. and we also have the dining room, where you can see the ice
cream service set on the table. it was a gift purchased in france. she was particularly known for her strawberry sis cream. in the original house this room was used by henry clay like a home office. henry, of course, was a lawyer, a farmer and a statesman. i would like to draw attention to his portfolio and document box. u currently it's on loan to us from the supreme court. henry clay would have used the items when he went to washington, d.c. we have a pair of stirrups that say h. clay. he believed in breeding the best to the best. 11 kentucky derby winners can
draw their glad lines back hire to ashland. next we have the library. henry clay michigan his legal career in 1797. we have his law license up here on the wall. and this was issued to him in 1797 in virginia. it really helped define who he was. >> we will be back with you throughout the program. you'll be available to answer viewer questions. so thank you very much for this view of ashland in henry clay's period. who are some of the famous people he may have posted here? >> several presidents came here. william henry harrison. martin van buren came here two
years before they thought they would be riding with each other. did they talk about trying to make a texas issue go away. but both issues letters to oppose the annexation of texas. a lot of famous people have been through the area. >> we're going to mix in the first viewer call. >> caller: good evening. i want to thank c-span for this series. it's a great idea. i have a nonlincoln-themed question. i want to ask the panel about 1824 and theru